Philosopher to discuss neuroscience of ethics

Beloit, Wis.—Joshua Greene of the Princeton University psychology department will shed light on how we make moral decisions when he presents his lecture “The Neuroscience of Hard, Ethical Decisions” at 3:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 18, in Richardson Auditorium of Morse-Ingersoll Hall, on the Beloit College campus.

Greene conducts research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine how moral judgments are based in the neurons of the brain. He examines the foundations of ethics, informed by recent work in psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary theory. “My goal as a scientist is to reveal our moral thinking for what it is: a complex hodgepodge of emotional responses and rational (re)constructions, shaped by biological and cultural forces,” says Greene.

Greene’s work explores how hard decisions are made about immediate crises and global issues, according to Marion Field Fass, professor of biology at Beloit College. He has explored what we will do to save one life nearby and how we see ourselves contributing to the global good, says Fass. His work brings together contemporary philosophy with brain imaging techniques to develop new perspectives on how we make the decisions that define us.

Greene received his bachelor’s in philosophy from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University. He continues to do post-doctoral work at Princeton University’s Center for the Study of Brain, Mind, and Behavior. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including Science, Trends in Cognitive Sciences and Nature Reviews Neuroscience.

His lecture is part of the 2004-2005 Beloit College series Year of World Citizenship, Science and Technology, which highlights issues of global concern. It is free and open to the public. For more information about this and other events, contact the Office of Public Affairs at (608) 363-2625.

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